Interior of Maldon's bistro decorated with light wood and white tile. Counter with pastry display case and menu sign on the wall behind. A few small tables.

Maldon’s Bistro: a Treasure in Irvine, California

2010 Main St Suite 180, Irvine, CA 92614

Let me let you in on a little secret. Maldon’s Bistro in Irvine, California is an incognito gluten-free restaurant.

It’s a brilliant strategy. Make really fabulous food that no one will ever question. Fill your restaurant with happy gluten-eaters. At the same time, make sure that all your delicious food is also gluten-free and celiac-safe. You will build a loyal fan base.

I’ve seen this once before, across from the Acropolis in Athens where the dedicated gluten-free restaurant Greek Stories serves gluten-free mousaka and baklava with nary a “gluten-free” sign in sight.

This strategy seems to be paying off for Maldon’s Bistro which is quickly experiencing word-of-mouth growth and exceeding the owners’ expectations.

Menu Items

Among the most popular items on the menu are burgers on the housemade brioche bun, breakfast all day, Saturday bottomless mimosas, and baked-to-order biscuits.

Here’s just a sampling of the menu at this classic French bistro:

  • Breakfast dishes: include eggs benedict, omelette a la Parisienne, and a traditional American breakfast with eggs, hashbrowns, bacon/sausage, and toast/salad.
  • Sides: order fries, ham, or any of the American breakfast items a la carte
  • Crepes: sweet crepes like the Nutella crepe with in-house Nutella and savory crepes including a brie crepe with bechamel sauce.
  • Sandwiches: several savory sandwiches on the menu from the brioche bun cheeseburger to braised short rib sandwich and the French croque monsieur
  • Soups: French onion soup and gumbo
  • Biscuit Trio: the original biscuit, cheddar cheese & peppers biscuit, and bacon cheddar biscuit are baked fresh to order for the perfect yeasted-dough rise. They take 20 minutes or you can call ahead if you don’t want to wait.
  • & More: smoked salmon tartine (open-faced toast), French toast, and quiche of the day

Everything listed above is gluten-free.

Gluten-Free Except…

A plastic display case with 3 shelves. The top shelf has muffins. The middle shelf is empty. The bottom shelf has croissants and pain au chocolat.
Traditional wheat-based croissants and pain au chocolat are imported from France, kept at the bottom of the display case, and grabbed with single-use papers.

Croissants, pain au chocolat, and sourdough bread are the only gluten-containing items in the restaurant. The first two are imported from France and all three are kept in a separate area of the kitchen. None of them are made on-site.

One of the owners has celiac disease and the staff understands the importance of good protocols to prevent cross-contact.

The owner told me that everything baked in-house is made with their proprietary gluten-free flour.

The croissants and pain au chocolat are kept in the bottom of a small pastry display. All pastry items are grabbed with a disposable paper and the papers are not reused between pastries.

Gluten-Free Pastries

The pastry display contains small-batch fresh-baked pastries that may vary based on the day you visit.

  • Puffs: plain/chocolate
  • Lemon bars
  • Madeleines
  • Coconut Macaroons: plain/chocolate
  • Cupcakes
  • Large cookies: Nutella, Peanut butter, lime sugar, and dirty chai (with espresso)

I had a bite of the Nutella cookie which was perfect and chewy, and the dirty chai cookie which was soft and reminiscent of real German gingerbread.

A chai cookie with light brown drizzled icing and an edible leaf on top.
Dirty Chai Cookie with Espresso

If you frequent gluten-free bakeries, you will be impressed by the reasonable prices.

For those who don’t frequent gluten-free bakeries, they will never know that these pastries are gluten-free!


Birds eye view: plate with fried chicken, ranch, Cole slaw, scoop of potato salad and a roll.

Maldon’s Bistro publishes its weekly special online and has it posted on its patio.

My husband and I could not resist this week’s special: fried chicken. We often like to mix and match and share, but not this time. We each ordered our own plate.

The chicken special came with three pieces of fried chicken, all boneless thigh meat, for the most flavor.

On the side was fresh coleslaw with a bit of parsley and mango, potato salad made with the owners’ grandmother’s recipe, and a soft, fluffy brioche roll sweetened with a little bit of pineapple juice. The gluten-free brioche roll will remind you of a Hawaiian roll.

Mini Shop

As is common in European Bistros, there was a small collection of items for purchase: wine, coffee, chai blend, olive oil, honey, tea towels, spices, and more.

In the corner of the restaurant were bouquets of seasonally themed fresh-cut flowers for sale.

Family Owned & Run Business

Maldon’s Bistro is owned by Laura O’Neal of Nacho Mama’s Gluten Free Goods (you can order her flour mixes online), Laura’s husband, and David Nunez (Laura’s brother).

Even the pastry chef is in the family!

My husband and I beat the lunch crowd on our first visit, so we had a little time to chat with David. The vibe was warm and friendly, where customers matter.

I watched David greet customers by name in between telling stories of the peanut butter cookies in the display case that were made for just for a customer’s birthday today, how one of their pastries is named after a loyal customer, and how that same customer almost cried when she he served her the first fried chicken she has eaten in over 20 years.

This is the kind of establishment you want to succeed!


Located in Centerview, a business complex in Irvine right off the 405 freeway. It’s a beautiful, modern office center with outdoor seating by a lake and fountain.

Finding Maldon’s on your first visit can be tricky, so follow these simple directions:

  • Exit the 405 freeway.
  • Head north on MacArthur Boulevard.
  • Turn right on Main Street.
  • Turn right at the second light onto Gillette Avenue.
  • Take an immediate right into the parking garage.
  • As you enter the garage, Maldon’s is on your lefthand side about halfway down, right outside the structure. Find a parking spot, head outside, and you’re there!

They validate parking, so remember to bring your ticket.

Maldon’s Bistro serves quality French food in its own right, gluten-free or not. Proudly invite gluten-eating friends and family to join you for a delicious French meal in a charming and friendly atmosphere. You don’t even have to tell them it’s (mostly) gluten-free!

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